The Panama Canal Review - November 1965
The hook sets tight and
the lure slices through blue-black water; the reel whines and your line is straight and
hard, like a ramrod. The great black marlin has struck.
In Panama, where the marline are plentiful, the incomparable thrill of hooking one of the world's biggest and most challenging fish is not rare. Most likely it will be a marlin, but it could be the Pacific sailfish, which is much bigger than the Atlantic variety, or the monstrous sawfish. The world's record for sawfish was set in Panama waters, where 21 other world's record fish have been landed, including black, blue and silver marlin, snook, amberjack, sailfish, and giant sea bass.
Panama's name means "abundance of fish," according to one popular translation. And the fish abound in waters that can be reached from Panama City in a few minutes.
Among the people who take fishing seriously, the marlin is the big thing in Panama. these giant fighters are the black, striped, and blue marlin. Apparently there is a growing belief that there is also a silver marlin. About 95 percent of the marlin caught are the black and these average 250 to 300 pounds. However, a 400 or 500 pound marlin is not at all uncommon. The world's record for the black marlin is 1,500 pounds.
Marlin are caught by trolling. Live bonita is the best bait, but a marlin will hit strips of cut bonita too. Though boats troll at moderate speed to make it easier for the marlin, there's no worry about that. A marlin can outrun any fishing boat. Once the hook is set, the boat is worked toward the fish as the angler pumps the rod. Hooked in the gill, a vital spot, a marlin can be boated in 5 to 20 minutes. But if he's hooked in the bill or the eye, the battle can be 4 to 12 hours' long, and it has been in many cases.
Pinas Bay, about 140 miles from Panama, offers the best marlin fishing. Others, though, are caught with 5 or 6 hours of Panama.
Sailfish are abundant less than an hour from downtown Panama. The sailfish is a famous fighter and Panama is one of the few places in the world where a fisherman has a good chance to hook one in a single day's fishing.
Catching marlin is a business that usually requires a trip of several days - a week is best. The Club de Pesca at Pinas Bay has complete facilities for anglers, including boats, tackle and guides.
But if it isn't marlin you're after, the fishing close to Panama City offers other game fish prized in tropical waters, and these run heavier, as a rule, than in many popular fishing resorts in the tropics.
On a typical day of fishing a catch might include amberjack, bonita, wahoo, kingfish mackerel, dolphin, and - if luck is with the boat - a sailfish. All these fish take artificial or cut bait; all are caught while trolling.
For the bottom-fishing angler, the red snapper and corbina are prized. These may be caught from docks, piers and jetties. they run from about 5 to 30 pounds for the snapper, 3 to 20 pounds for corbina. which is the best eating is a gourmet's debate, but in Panama the corbina has the edge>
Panama's mountain lakes in the western area - near Cerro Punta or Volcan are noted for bass and blue gill, and many interior streams offer fine trout fishing.
In nearby town, fishermen can find comfortable quarters and transportation.
Whether you want the challenge of back-breaking marlin or joy of tempting trout with delicate flies, there is fishing in Panama to please the most avid angler.
October 4, 1998